Hongdae

September 7, 2008 at 4:44 am (Uncategorized)

So Dave and I had our first official “crazy night out in Seoul” on Friday, and wow, it was a doozy!  One of Dave’s many contacts on E-Bay turned out to be living in Seoul, so we arranged to meet up with him after work in central Nowon.  Sean has been in the country since last November, and he knows a ton about where to go and what to do in Seoul, so we put ourselves in his hands and let the fun begin.  We started off with a fantastic dinner of samgyeopsal, kind of a cross between bacon and ham steak, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samgyeopsal) at a Korean BBQ restaurant.  The one issue with eating at these restaurants is that the sheer number of side dishes you’re given – usually close to a dozen – crowd the entire table and make it a little difficult to manoeuver without almost knocking over something or dousing your shirt in a variety of sauces.  Still, I love eating at these restaurants – the food is phenomenally fresh and absolutely delicious.  They definitely need to import this style of eating to North America. 

After dinner we headed back to our neighbourhood three subway stops south of Nowon and took Sean to our favourite restaurant for drinks.  The popular liquor in Korea is called soju (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soju) , a weak version of vodka that the locals drink straight from the bottle with abandon.   There are commercials and ads everywhere for the stuff – we even saw a commercial before the movie Wall-E last weekend – and its popularity is definitely due in part to its ridiculously low price.  You can buy a 400ml bottle for ninety cents (that’s right $0.90), and it’s available at any grocery store, variety store and restaurant.  This restaurant near us serves up a delicious mixture of soju and kiwi juice that is absolutely to die for, so we wanted to show Sean our discovery.  He was not disappointed! 

At this point it was about 11pm, which is pretty much my bed time, but Sean said he wanted to show us one of the best entertainment districts in Seoul and we couldn’t pass up the offer.  Subways in Seoul stop running ridiculously early on the weekends; we caught the very last train at 11:50pm and travelled down to the region called Hongdae.  The area surrounds Hongik University, and is a mecca for local university students and ex-pats alike (http://wiki.galbijim.com/Hongdae).  We’d heard great things about the area, but had yet to visit and I was really excited to see the sights with someone who knew the best places to go.  It took about 40 minutes to get there by subway, but when we exited the station it looked like it was about 9pm, not 12:30am.  The streets were absolutely packed with people.  The area is about 6 square blocks, and is full of little shops, restaurants and tons of neon-lit bars.  We definitely should have brought our camera.  Oh well, next time.

Before stop #1 we decided to stop by the nearest 7-11 for street beer.  North America has street meat, and South Korea has street beer.  You can pick from a wide variety of bottled or canned beers, cocktails and of course, soju and drink it openly while you walk around the streets.  It was a little surreal.  Sean then took us to a little place called Club FF, or Club Funky Funky, where they had a live band playing.  It was similar to most of the basement dive bars in North America, complete with a couple of white guys playing rock music.  We met the guys in the band after their set and it turned out one of them was from Newfoundland, so we chatted about Canada for a bit. 

We stayed there until just before 2am, then hit the streets again to find stop #2.  Amazingly, the streets were actually more busy when we came out of Club Funky Funky.  I don’t think Korean people ever sleep – they definitely party hard on the weekends.  We moseyed over to Club OI, which was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen.  When we got off the elevator we were greeted by a huge pile of plastic bags, which we were told are used to store our shoes.  For any Star Wars fan, this place was like walking into the Mos Eisley cantina – Dave and I both said this at the exact same time.  (http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Chalmun’s_Cantina)  We walked up a narrow white stucco staircase which opened into the main section of the bar.  Wow, I was speechless.  Here are some images of OI – http://forum.seoulsounds.com/viewtopic.php?t=396 – these do the place justice much more than I can with words.  We grabbed a drink and sat down at one of the private alcoves, where we talked about movies, music and all kinds of stuff until about 3:45am.  I couldn’t believe I was still awake, and I didn’t feel all that tired! 

We decided to keep going, and moved on to location #3.  By the time we left it was close to 4am, so we decided to forgo an expensive cab ride home and just wait until the subways started running again at 5:30am.  I know, the thought process sounds utterly ridiculous now, but it really made sense at the time.  We walked over to a restaurant called Ooyeaooyea, where we ordered a pitcher of Cass (one of the local brews), and some food for the boys.  At this point we hadn’t eaten since 10pm the night before, so it was kind of like having a very early breakfast.  Dave dubbed this meal “Brinner” – a combination of breakfast and dinner.  The restaurant was so busy it was unbelievable – people were ordering bottle after bottle of soju like their night had just begun.  We hung around and chatted until about 5:20am, then decided to trek back up to the subway station for the ride home. 

One of the funniest moments of the night happened on the subway ride home.  It’s very common to see people fully asleep or somewhere halfway between awake and asleep on the subways in Seoul.  When we got on the subway at 5:30am about half the people were asleep throughout our car.  Nothing unusual there.  But then, just before our stop, one guy sitting across from us stirred a little in his sleep, then did a full face plant into the floor in front of him.  The craziest thing is that he didn’t even wake up – in fact, he stretched out on the floor and continued sleeping!  The people who were awake were all laughing and pointing, but still no signs of wakefulness from the guy on the floor.  An old guy walked over to him and smacked him HARD on the back, and it took four blows before the guy regained some form of consciousness.  At the next stop he wandered off….and everyone on the subway was still laughing.  By far one of the strangest things I’ve seen so far in Korea.

By the time we got off the subway it was almost 6:30am, and it was light out – we had just spent the last 10 hours with Sean!  We walked home in a bit of a daze, and I collapsed in bed just before 7:00am.  Dave wasn’t tired, so he decided to stay up for a bit, but I was beyond exhausted.  I think I’ve pulled an all-nighter maybe once or twice in my life, and that was to study for an exam, not to bar-hop.  This was a totally new experience for me, and it was pretty amazing.  I had a great time, but I don’t plan on doing it again any time soon!

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1 Comment

  1. Cai said,

    Way 2 go u guys!! Very interesting stuff, particularly like the references to explain things. The Soju sounds wicked, so much protocol involved in the pouring etc! Ridiculously cheap too, one would have to be careful!! Never leave home without your camera! I’m very interested in your cuisine experiences too, the food looks so good!
    Hope you’ve recovered from the all-nighter!! Cheers!

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